Behind the Edit - AMG Edition

If you're anything like me, you've looked at a shot and thought 'That looks amazing, I wonder what they've done to achieve that look'. I thought it would interesting to give a high level overview of the process behind editing one of my most recent shots from the AMG Club ACT website shoot

We'll be using this shot of a C63s - here's the final product. 

I shoot all my photos in RAW format and those of you who aren't overly familar with photography might be surprised to see how flat and dull the photo looks straight out of camera when taken in RAW format. I'll save an explanation of what RAW is for another blog but for now all we need to see is what the original photo looked like (apart from watermark and number plate removal). 

Lets get into the editing process and break it down into the steps I took to achieve the final image.

Step 1 - Start with the basics
To perform all of my basic editing, photo culling and photo management I use Adobe Lightroom CC. With each photo I'll use Lightroom to apply copyright metadata and make basic adjustment to things such as: 

  • Exposure;
  • Highlights / Shadows;
  • Whites /Blacks;
  • Saturation / Vibrance;
  • Clarity;
  • Hue / Saturation / Luminance of specific colours, and;
  • apply lens correction profiles.

Here's what the result of those changes looked like: 

With all the basic adjustments made, I jumped across into Adobe Photoshop to complete the next stages. 

Step 2 - Can I borrow your eraser? 
Removing distracting elements is a key part of the process in my opinion, often you can avoid or minimise distractions during the shoot but there'll always be things you can't work around. It is a fine balance between removing distractions and going overboard trying to remove every little rock, leaf, bit of rubber. I've highlighted the elements I removed from the shot below. 

With those elements removed we are now left with the image below, an image that is much cleaner and the eyes aren't distracted from the main subject. 

Step 3 - The Butterfly Effect
This stage may polarise people and is definitely a creative choice. I decided I didn't like the slice of green in the top left hand corner of the image as I found it distracting. The solution was to copy the wall/railing from the right hand side of the frame and blend it in to the left hand side of the frame. For those of you who have ever made a 'butterfly' painting at school the concept is much the same in this instance. 

I wanted to copy the area highlight in red and blend it into the area highlighted in blue. To do this I duplicated and flipped the layer before masking it out and brushing the areas I wanted to keep back in. The end result looked like this: 

Step 4 - Get in line
The line running through the centre of the image was slightly off and I couldn't stand it any longer so the next step was to straighten and move the line to be in the middle of the car as shown in the highlighted sections below. 

With that fixed we're left with the following image and ready for the final editing stage. 

Step 5 - Wrap it up
The final step was to make some minor tweaks to the adjustments to really make the car pop. I isolated the car from the background as shown below and made those final adjustments. 

With the final adjustments made, I save the finalised shot and jump back into Lightroom. I think you'll agree, the final image is significantly different from were we started and now has depth, colour and there is no confusion as to where the focus should be. Ultimately, its those tiny details that add up to make the difference between a good and a great photo.  

Step 6 - Lick the stamp and send it
With all the editing completed, I return to Lightroom to export the complete image. Usually I'll leave the images alone for at least 3-4 hours and return to them to make sure I haven't gone too crazy with the edit and everything looks the way I wanted it to. Satisfied of that, I'll export the photo a number of times using different presets dictated by where the image will be used i.e Facebook, web, print, Instagram or here on the blog. 

I hope you've enjoyed a look behind the scenes at the editing process and if you'd like to see this series continue, please let me know!